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  • Kevin Patton

Live Well Feel Better

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

In this blog, I'm going to look at what constitutes healthy living.

As always at Living Well, we only suggest strategies with a strong evidence base. The information in this blog is based on NHS Guidelines. The Dietary Guidelines, explored in my last blog, provide science-based advice for making food choices that promote good health and a healthy weight and help prevent disease. The Physical Activity Guidelines provide recommendations on the amount, types, and level of intensity of physical activity needed to achieve and maintain good health.

The Dietary Guidelines may be summarized as

– Balancing Calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.

  • Avoid oversized portions.

– Foods to Increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.

  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

– Foods to Decrease

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals—and choose foods with lower numbers.

  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Healthy eating and physical activity work hand in hand to help us live healthier lives. The Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults be physically active for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week—children need 60 minutes each day.

You can stay physically active by doing activities such as walking, dancing, bicycling, or gardening and by reducing the amount of time you spend sitting.

We are going to focus on

1. The benefits of physical activity and the specific recommendations for aerobic and strengthening activities.

2. How to do strength-training activities.

3. How to develop and maintain a successful plan for physical activity.

How Many Calories Does Exercise Use?

The number of calories varies depending on many factors including weight, age, and environmental conditions. This chart provides an estimate for the number of calories males and females may burn doing various activities for 10 minutes at a time

Some people find that having a regular schedule of intense exercise workouts, such as aerobics and step-aerobics especially enjoyable. But exercise doesn’t always have to be intense to be healthy and can be somewhat more gentle, such as vigorous walks, bike rides and skating. Also, some people find it difficult to engage in exercise just for the sake of exercise. They may find greater satisfaction in exercise activities that are social and involve groups of people. This can include dancing, tennis, swimming or having entire groups going for walks, taking bike rides, going for runs, and skating.

Some of the benefits of exercise include increasing your physical well-being, improving your emotional well-being, improving your mental alertness, improving your sleep, providing you with more energy, and reducing your stress and anxiety. Exercise also provides structure to your life and can help prevent weight gain.

Just increasing our activity and exercise levels can make an enormous impact on our mood by:

  • Making us feel better about ourselves

  • Making us feel less tired

  • Motivating us to do more

  • Improving our ability to think more clearly

  • Helping us think about something other than focusing on our unhelpful thoughts

  • Using up the adrenaline resources created by anxiety and anger

  • Increasing motivation

  • Giving us a sense of achievement

  • Enjoyment

  • Being with other people

  • Stimulating the body to produce natural anti-depressants

  • Making us more healthy

  • Stimulating our appetite

How Much Exercise?

Aerobic Activities

Moderate 2 ½ Hours per week

Vigorous 1 ¼ Hours per week

  • Slowly build up the amount of time you spend exercising. Aim for twice the amount of time indicated above within 3 months

  • Exercise for at least 10 minutes at a time

  • You can combine moderate and vigorous activities

Muscle Strengthening Activities

Do these at least 2 days a week

Include all the main muscle groups

  • Legs

  • Hips

  • Back

  • Chest

  • Stomach

  • Shoulders

  • Arms

Repeat exercise for each muscle group

8 – 12 times per session

  • When was the last time that you engaged in regular exercise? What kind of exercise have you been involved with in the past?

  • What type of exercise appeals to you the most? Intense, vigorous workouts by yourself? Competing with others? Social and gentle aerobic activities?

  • What would you like to gain from exercise? What is the primary thing that would motivate you to exercise?

  • What obstacles might get in the way of your engaging in regular exercise? What steps can you take to overcome these obstacles? Are there clubs or organisations that you could join?

  • What specific types of exercise would you consider doing? What would be a reasonable exercise schedule that you could incorporate into your self-care regime?

Moderate Activities Might Include

  • Ballroom and Line Dancing

  • Cycling on Level Ground

  • Canoeing

  • General Gardening (Raking, Trimming)

  • Sports where you catch and throw

  • Walking Briskly

  • Water Aerobics

Vigorous Activities Might Include

  • Aerobic Dance

  • Cycling faster than 10 mph

  • Heavy Gardening (Digging, Hoeing)

  • Hiking uphill

  • Jujitsu , Karate, Kung-Fu

  • Race walking, Jogging or Running

  • Sports with lots of Running

  • Swimming Laps

Working with Weights

You don’t have to go out and buy weights for strength exercises. Find something you can hold on to easily. For example, you can make your own weights from unbreakable household items:

• Fill a plastic milk jug with sand or water and tape the opening securely closed.

• Fill a sock with dried beans, and tie up the open end.

• Use common grocery items, such as bags of rice, vegetable or soup cans, or bottled water.

Working with a Theraband

Therabands are stretchy elastic bands that come in several strengths, from light to heavy. You can use them in some strength exercises instead of weights.

How Much How Often

Try to do strengthening exercises for all of your major muscle groups on 2 or more days per week. But don’t exercise the same muscle group 2 days in a row.

• If you have not done strength training before, you might need to start out using 1- or 2-pound weights (or no weights at all). Your body needs to get used to strength exercises. Starting out with weights that are too heavy can cause injuries.

• It should feel somewhere between hard and very hard for you to lift the weight. It shouldn’t feel very, very hard. If you can’t lift a weight 8 times in a row, it’s too heavy for you. Reduce the amount of weight.

• Take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place, hold the position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to return to your starting position. Don’t let the weight drop; returning it slowly is very important. This is one complete movement of an exercise, or a repetition.

• Start by lifting 8 times, working up to 8–12 repetitions for each exercise. If you can’t do that many at first, do as many as you can. You may be able to build up to this goal over time.

• When you can do two sets of 8–12 repetitions easily, increase the amount of weight at the next session. Keep repeating.


• Talk with your doctor if you are unsure about doing a particular exercise. For example, if you’ve had hip or back surgery, talk about which exercises might be best for you.

• Don’t hold your breath during strength exercises. Holding your breath while straining can cause changes in blood pressure. Breathe regularly.

• Proper form and safety go hand-in-hand. For some exercises, you may want to start by alternating arms and work your way up to using both arms at the same time. If it is difficult for you to hold hand weights, try using wrist weights.

• To prevent injury, don’t jerk or thrust weights into position. Use smooth, steady movements.

• Avoid “locking” your arm and leg joints in a tightly straightened position. To straighten your knees, tighten your thigh muscles. This will lift your kneecaps and protect them.

• Muscle soreness lasting a few days and slight fatigue are normal after muscle-building exercises, at least at first. After doing these exercises for a few weeks, you will probably not be sore after your workout.

Overhead Arm Raise

This exercise will strengthen your shoulders and arms. It should make swimming and other activities such as lifting and carrying heavy items easier.

You can do this exercise while standing or sitting in a sturdy, armless chair.

  • Hold weight with palm facing upward.

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart.

  • Hold weights at your sides at shoulder height with palms facing forward. Breathe in slowly.

  • Slowly breathe out as you raise both arms up over your head, keeping your elbows slightly bent.

  • Hold the position for 1 second.

  • Breathe in as you slowly lower your arms.

  • Repeat 8–12 times.

  • Rest; then repeat 8–12 more times.

As you progress, use a heavier weight and alternate arms until you can lift the weight comfortably with both arms.

Front Arm Raise

This exercise will strengthen your shoulders and make lifting groceries easier.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your feet flat on the floor during the exercise.

  • Hold weights straight down at your sides, with palms facing backward.

  • Keeping them straight, breathe out as you raise both arms in front of you to shoulder height.

  • Hold the position for 1 second.

  • Breathe in as you slowly lower your arms.

  • Repeat 8–12 times.

  • Rest; then repeat 8–12 more times.

As you progress, use a heavier weight and alternate arms until you can lift the weight comfortably with both arms

I have included sample Exercise Diaries as images below, please feel free to download and use.

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